September New Stamps: Devils Hole, Ice Age Floods, and More!

 

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Fort Pulaski National Monument, near Savannah, Georgia, is one of the many parks with a new passport stamp this month.

 

Since I’ve started tracking the monthly releases of new stamps for this blog last year in September, this may be the single biggest month yet.  Indeed, the last few months may be the single-greatest expansion of the stamp program in a three month period, or at the very least, the largest expansion since the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area added 60+ new stamps in a single month back in the winter of 2008.

With such a long list, I am going to break the listings into two parts, starting with the new passport stamp additions for parks that are counted among the 408 units of the U.S. National Park System.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area | Charit Creek Lodge

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park |

  • Ashton, RI
  • Pawtucket, RI
  • RI / MA

Bryce Canyon National Park | Bryce, UT

Death Valley National Park | Devils Hole

Fort Pulaski National Monument | Sutler Store

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area | St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam

There were also two special event stamps discovered this month:

Andersonville National Historic Site | Funeral for 13,000

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens | Lotus & Water Lilly Festival

Most notable among these new stamps are the three new ones for the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.  This is one of the new national parks that was established in last December’s Defense Authorization Act.  In fact, this national park is still so new, that the National Park Service doesn’t even have a website up and running for it, although once the website is ready, it looks like you’ll be able to find it at www.nps.gov/blac*.  Pawtucket, Rhode Island is the home of the Slater Mill, which is arguably the centerpiece of the new national historical park, and has a claim to be one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.  Ashton, Rhode Island is the home of Blackstone River State Park, which features a canal towpath and riverwalk, as well as the Captain Wilber Kelly House Museum.

Fort Pulaski National Monument is the local national park in Savannah, Georgia, and is one of several “coastal fortification” sites in the National Park System.  The Sutler Store is the park bookstore, located inside the fort, and previously housed a second copy of the stamps found in the visitor center at the entrace to the fort.  It looks like it will now have a stamp of its own.

The Charit Creek Lodge is one of a handful of unique, backcountry lodges located in the National Park System.  A hiking trip out to this lodge is another good reason for a trip out to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  Meanwhile, the new stamps at Bryce Canyon National Park and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area appear at first glance to simply re-issues of stamps for existing stamp locations.  The St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam, for example, are located directly behind the Mill City Museum which is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Minneapolis, regardless of whether you are visiting the national parks or collecting the passport stamps.  The Mill City Museum does a really fantastic job telling the story of the Twin Cities, and the history of milling industry in the area.

The Funeral for 13,000 program at Andersonville National Historic Site will commemorate the Civil War dead who are buried there.
The Funeral for 13,000 program at Andersonville National Historic Site will commemorate the Civil War dead who are buried there.

At Andersonville National Historic Site, the “Funeral for 13,000” is a special event held this September to commemorate the burying at the end of the Civil War of the numerous Union soldiers who died there.  According to the park’s website, this will be a very limited-edition cancellation, only available in September – which will surely be frustrating to the “passport completists” out there.   On the other hand, the Lotus and Water Lilly Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC is an annual event held each July – so enthusiasts will have another opportunity to collect that stamp next summer.

Perhaps the most striking of the new stamps, however, is the new stamp for Devil’s Hole at Death Valley National Park.   Devil’s Hole is home to what most scientists consider to be the world’s rarest fish.   The tiny, inch-long, Devil’s Hole pupfish lives nowhere else on earth but this small desert pond of only about 500 square feet in surface area – a space that’s smaller than some master bedrooms that are built these days.

I first learned about Devils Hole when it was mentioned in one of the most memorable and formative stories that I read while growing up.  I suppose it says a lot about me, with no further commentary needed, that I was reading Natural History magazine  on a monthly basis as a teenager.  Make of that what you will, but the January 1993 issue had a haunting article entitled “Species in a Bucket” – the memory of which has still stuck with me.  The subject of this story was a close relative of the Devil’s Hole pupfish, this one called the Owens pupfish.   The story relates an incident from 1969 in which the author, a wildlife biologist, found himself carrying the entire surviving population of Owens pupfish in two buckets in order to save the species from near-certain extinction due to declining water levels in its native habitat.   Fortunately, restoration efforts for this species have led to four established population, leaving it slightly less-endangered than the Devils Hole pupfish.   Nonetheless, this article is worth reading, and Natural History magazine has made it available for free online, so I encourage you to check it out and see if it impacts you as much as it did my younger self.

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The St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam are part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minneapolis, Minnesota and are commemorated in a new passport stamp this month.

Finally, a number of National Park Service partners also received stamps this month.   Due to limitations of space and time, I’ll simply list them without extensive commentary this month:

Coal National Heritage Area | Princeton Railroad Museum

Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area |

  • Corinth, MS
  • Tishomingo County
  • New Albany, MS
  • Holly Springs, MS
  • DeSoto County
  • Oxford, MS
  • Starkville, MS
  • Columbus, MS

The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area is located in northeast Missouri.  These eight stamps join two existing stamps for a total of ten.   The awkwardly named  National Coal Heritage Area is located in southern West Virginia, and now has nine active passport stamp locations.

California National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Oregon National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Pony Express National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Pony Express National Historic Trail | St. Joseph, MO

Its worth noting that Fort Bridger is a Wyoming State Historic Site, and was a notable trading outpost on the western trails.   St. Joseph, Missouri is the famous starting point of the short-lived overland mail route.

Santa Fe National Historic Trail | El Rancho de los Golondrias, NM

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | New Mexico History Museum, NM

North Country National Sceni Trail | Carlton, MN

Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |

  • Havre de Grace, MD
  • Oxon Hill, MD
  • Fort Washington, MD
  • Piscataway Park
  • Smallwood State Park, MD
  • Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum
  • Historic St. Mary’s City, MD
  • Point Lookout State Park, MD
  • Deltaville, VA
  • Urbanna, VA
  • Richmond, VA
  • Onacock, VA

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail |

  • Montana Natural History Center
  • National Bison Range
  • Fort Spokane
  • Dry Falls State Park
  • Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
  • Multnomah Falls
  • Vista House

This is the second stamp for El Rancho de los Golondrias, which already had a stamp for the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail.   The town of Santa Fe, New Mexico was a hub of trading activity first for Spanish Mexico, and then for independent Mexico after 1821.  The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is literally the “Royal Road to the Interior” and connected the colonial capital of Aguascalientes, located in the center of present-day Mexico, to the trading post of Santa Fe.   Following Mexican independence in 1821, trade was opened with the United States, and the Santa Fe Trail was a trading route from Missouri to Santa Fe.  El Rancho de los Golondrias, literally, “Ranch of the Swallows,” is located about a days’ walk to the south and west of Santa Fe, and so was a popular “last stop” for traders arriving on the camino real for the south.   Its a little surprising to see this location receive a stamp for the Santa Fe NHT, as it does not appear to be located on the trail route itself, located as it is just to the west of Santa Fe.   However, today the site operates as a living history museum, and its possible that they have added some educational exhibits on the Santa Fe Trail, given the site’s proximity to Santa Fe.

For the North Country National Scenic Trail,  Carlton, Minnesota is located just outside of Duluth, on the southwest tip of Lake Superior.  It is located adjacent to Jay Cooke State Park, which has long had a passport stamp reading “Minnesota” on it, and so this is probably its first place-specific passport stamp.

The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail may bring travelers to discover the landscapes of eastern Washington. Photo from 2004.
The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail may bring travelers to discover the landscapes of eastern Washington. Photo from 2004.

 

Finally, perhaps the highlight of this month’s stamps are the first seven stamps for the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.   Imagine a lake larger than the State of Delaware and more than twice as deep as Lake Superior suddenly letting loose in a massive flood, sending all that water racing at once across hundreds of miles towards the ocean.  The force an power of these floods would surely alter the shape of the landscape for thousands of years to come!  Geologists tell us that that is exactly what happened approximately 12,000 years ago on the plains of western Montana and easter Washington.

In fact, geologists tell us that similar events happened several times during the previous 5,000 years.  The sources of these floods were water and ice from the melting glaciers of the last ice age.  Periodically, ice would form a natural dam in a valley, causing a large lake to form.   When the ice dam would melt or break, the lake would drain – sometimes violently.

The largest of the floods, which I described above, was also one of the last such floods.  Geologists call the source of this flood Glacial Lake Missoula, and when the ice gave way, it let loose at speeds up to 45 miles an hour.  At its peak, the flood may have released a torrent of water at the rate of 400 million cubic feet of water per second.   As a comparison, the Amazon River only flows at 6 million cubic feet per second.

Its not known if any human had yet arrived in the area to witness this cataclysmic event.   Archeologists date the first arrival of humans in the United States right around 12,000 years ago as well.  If any early settlers were in the area, the sheer noise of this event must have been as terrifying as the scouring of the landscape.

Congress established the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail in 2009, and this is the first trail to bear the designation “National Geologic Trail.”  Its obviously been quite an effort to get this first National Geologic Trail up and running – but the release of these seven passport stamps is perhaps the first indication that this program is open and ready for discovery.

With this month’s additions there are now 1,981 active passport cancellations to collect.  Excluding anniversary and special-event stamps, there are 1,883 passport stamps.

Source:  Weis, Paul and William L. Newman. The Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington: The Geologic Story of the Spokane Flood 2nd Edition. U.S. Department of the Interior and Eastern Washington University Press.  1999.

Update (September 2016): The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park now has its own website, separate from the National Heritage Corridor.  It can be found at http://www.nps.gov/blrv 

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